Thursday, 29 March 2012

This week I am cooking from....

It's not vegan, but much is vegan friendly. This one is a little not like how I normally eat and is proving interesting in a good way! Review next week.

Monday, 26 March 2012

It's HERE!

My author copy of the hot off the press Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking!!!! Order it and it will ship very soon!! (OK, so this isn't the obligatory photo of the happy author holding the book, but I am home alone so it will have to come later......)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Book Review - 5 Steps to Healthy Cooking

First up, this book is not vegan. There are two whole sections I ignored, (the meat one and the fish one, and I am fine with doing that) and there are recipes where substitutions would need to be made if I were to make them -for the purposes of this review I didn't really bother much with those. That said, there are a large number of recipes out of the 500 which are already accidentally vegan! and some of the swaps are as simple as using a non-dairy product for a dairy one, and veggie stock for chicken.

The 5 steps themselves are outlined in the introduction, (I won't give them away here!) but I guess I'm not really the target audience for this book as everything I make pretty much meets the 5 steps already (maybe not some of the desserts and treats....) and I think the same would be true for the majority of vegans who eat more than junk food.

However, I feel there is a definite need for a book like this, educating the non-vegan public at large and encouraging the greater consumption of fruits and vegetables, and instilling the norm of making healthier choices everyday - and providing recipes to enable folks to do that. I would recommend this book for people wanting to "eat healthier" but not yet being at the place where they are willing to forgo their meat or dairy - who knows, something like this book may be the first step in someone's road to embracing veganism.

The book itself is quite substantial (500 recipes!), has a nice introduction looking at nutritional terms, and ingredients. Nice. Each recipe has nutritional information (for those of you who like that sort of thing), many have tips, health notes about the ingredients, superfood "spotlights", and storage tips (though these are a little repeated in places). The recipes are generally quick and easy, with few steps and ingredients making this suitable for kitchen novices. There are 2 sets of photo inserts - again some need to be ignored! (if you are vegan)

On to the recipes I made in page number order -

Page 59 - Power Granola

Nice one. Though did lose its crunch a bit after a few days. Not too sweet - ideal.

Page 81 - Chewy Cherry Granola Bars

Though I used Cranberries. Sweeter than I expected, a treat for sure, but (mostly) healthy!

Page 118 - Roasted Beet and Beet Greens Salad

So tasty for something so simple and with few ingredients. Time consuming re the roasting but worth it!

Page 147 - Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Very nice. Quick and tasty - filling and satisfying.

Page 153 - Sesame Peanut Vegetable Noodle Salad

I am a sucker for peanut sauce and peanut noodle salads. This one didn't disappoint.

Page 171 - Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup

Maybe the simplest soup ever. Very tasty.

Page 174 - Classic Tomato Soup

Next time I think I'll add a touch of sweetener as the tomatoes where a little acidic, but simple, quick and nice enough.

Page 183 - French Lentil Soup

Not the prettiest soup but filling, hearty and tasty. Lentil soups never really are that pretty!

Page 207 - Black Bean Chipotle Chili

Better the second day after the spices mellowed and melded.

Page 252 - Chickpea Potato Masala

Stick to your ribs in a tasty way this one. Mellow spices - good combination of flavors.

Page 290 - Basil Coconut Tofu Curry

Bit too heavy on the green beans for my taste preference, and the tofu didn't really absorb the flavor all the way through, nice enough but not a fave.

Page 448 - Wilted Spinach with Garlic

Basic side, quick and tasty!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

This week I'm cooking from -

Another non-vegan cookbook, this time

and I am just completely ignoring the chapters on meat and seafood, (lalalalalala) and have found loads of accidentally (or easily made) vegan recipes in the other chapters to keep me going.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Book Review - The Healthy Voyagers Global Kitchen

The premise of this book appeals to me on so many levels. As a pretty well-travelled person it gives me the opportunity to re-visit some destinations I've loved, by revisiting the food I ate there (or a vegan version of it for those pre-vegan travels). This book also gives the opportunity for the expansion of culinary "trips" - without ever leaving home. Its the sort of book where you can say to yourself, "which country do I feel like visiting today", and then head off there. (Maybe after a visit to the store to stock up, of course)

The book is sectioned by country (or region) so all the like dishes are grouped together, enabling your to make a full meal from a country (or region). My only negative with that is that there needs to be an alternate table of contents listing the dishes by a more traditional meal breakdown - "Soups" "Salads" "Desserts" and the like. It is sort of done in the index at the back but it would be nicer it this were more accessible. There is a nice introductory section, including ingredients list, and there are lots of lovely colour photos (if you like lots of photos) and the recipes are easily laid out each on a page.

On to the recipes I made (in page number order as always) -

Page 56 - Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms and Yellow Peppers

I found the method here pretty time consuming (at least double time stated and using more broth than indicated) without the payoff you get with risotto rice (the creaminess) so if making again would likely cook the quinoa in a less risotto like manner. I did enjoy the finished dish very much!

Page 66 - Plantain Crisps with Garlic Sauce

I loved this one! I used the lleftover sauce as a tofu marinade and that was divine too.

Page 82 - Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas

My husband found the sauce too tart / sour for his tastes whereas I really enjoyed the whole dish - leftovers for me! It came together quicker than many enchilada recipes I have made in the past.

Page 83 - Caramel Flan

This was firmer than I had expected - I thought it would be a less structured texture. It was nice, don't get me wrong just not what I had expected.

Page 101 - Shepherd's Day Off Pie

Nice. Made with reconstituted TVP instead of bought ground "beef". Very much comfort food!

Page 111 - Potato and Egg Frittata

This was didn't work for me. I ended up with a mess in my pan as the crust ripped as I tried to flip and had to be scraped before I could cook the other side.... It all tasted nice in the end and the salsa with it was lovely, but not pretty!

Page 117 - Tres Bien Salad Nicoise

Nice salad. Lots of flavor and while a little time consuming (for a salad), worth it for the result.

Page 124 - Creme de la Creme Brulee

Nice enough, but still not the perfect creme brulee I am searching for....

Page 163 - Greek Salad

I forgot the olives so excuse their omission in the picture. I also found there was no need for the dressing on the salad as their was lots of flavorful marinade which did the job.

Page 182 - Garlic Hummus

I'm a garlic lover but this was too garlicy for me. The 2 tablespoons of minced garlic was 7 cloves, and that with 1 can chickpeas was overpowering.

Page 183 - Falafel

Another which didn't work - I tried to fry them and they completely disintegrated in my oil. I baked the rest. Flavor was not as vibrant as I was expecting.

Page 193 - Sukuma Wiki with Ugali

I didn't make the Ugali - which is traditionally from Manioc not Cornmeal, and I had enough whilst travelling in East Africa! The greens were very good, though I do remember the ones in Tanzania being mainly spinach based.

Page 208 - Chana Masala

Nice. Very tasty, and just as nice the next day cold and mashed and used in a wrap!

Page 209 - Aloo Gobi

Pictured, above. OK but a little on the bland side - maybe my fault for serving with the intensely flavorful chickpeas!

Page 227 - Peanutty Pad Thai

Nice sauce! Would make the sauce to eat as a sauce. Rest was nice enough - but with the sauce - wow!

Recommended? For sure! If you like your food to transport you to somewhere else then by all means buy.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

This week I am cooking from -

So expect a review next Monday (or thereabouts). Looking good so far.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Book Review - Vegetarian Entrees that won't leave you Hungry

No, I haven't stopped with being vegan (as if) but I don't have objections to having non-vegan cooking books in the house (there's actually a bunch coming up for review in upcoming weeks). Some have accidentally vegan, and awesome, recipes, and some have ideas which I take as inspiration. As this book is published by The Experiment, who are also my publishers, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

I also have a copy of Lukas Volger's first book - Veggie Burgers Every Which Way - and was expecting this one to be the same dimensions - as on Amazon they look the same, however, whilst still square this book is loads bigger which I was a little put out about - they won't make a cute matched set on the shelves. (Not important, right) The book is cute, bright and vibrant, with lots of lovely pictures (if you like that sort of thing) though unfortunately not all vegan, you'll have to skim the pictures to avoid the egg dishes. Its laid out in an easy to follow way, and while focused on main courses does have a few starter and dessert options.

I would have liked a little more detailed information about using the tofu marinades (length of time to marinate, how to cook once marinated in particular) for tofu-newbies, but as I am experienced with tofu I figured it out!

There were quite a lot of accidentally vegan, or easily made vegan (swap out the dairy easy-peasy) recipes in this book. Which is nice. Not many photos this week, sorry. I made (in page number order);

Page 24 - Twenty Minute Tomato Sauce: Simple, tasty, and yes, it did take 20 minutes.

Page 59 - Spiced Lentil Soup: Thick, hearty, warming, earthy and fulfilling. I liked this one a lot even though it didn't look the prettiest.

Page 61 - Red Bean Chili: Didn't work well for me. I think I got old and tough beans. I had to cook them for more than twice the time stated and they were still not entirely tender. The spice balance was a bit off after the extended cooking time too.

Page 88 - Classic Pad Thai: Though made without eggs.Simple to make, and very tasty.

Page 99 - Easy Tomato Curry: Very easy, very nice, and would make again for sure.

Page 135 - Basic Vinaigrette: Basic yes, but also tasty.

Page 136 - Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette: Though I used Lime as my lemon was mouldy! I think lime and cumin are buddies anyway so it was good that way too!

Page 157 - Peanut-Cilantro Tofu Marinade: Even with added water this was too thick to permeate the tofu, and once cooked formed a crust on the outside. Tasty though.

Page 158 - Honey-Mustard Tofu Marinade: Though I used Agave. Nice balance of sweet and tangy, and very enjoyable.

Page 163 - Chocolate Truffles: Made with Soy Creamer. Divine. I do love chocolate truffles!

All in all, I like having this book, will cook more from it, and will not hesitate to loan it out when people are interested in being vegetarian but not vegan (yet).

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Book Review - Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps

This book was not entirely what I was expecting. I had in my head that it was going to be something along the lines of The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions and I was quite excited to have another book giving recipes for store bought staples. However, I was wrong. This book is focused on giving vegan processed food options for non-vegan staples to aid the transition to a vegan diet. In the introduction Kim (may I call you Kim?) uses the phrase "Supermarket Bible", and that really is what this book is in a nutshell, a vegan supermarket guide so you know what to look for, and look out for as you buy your groceries. As such I feel it would be most helpful to new vegans, those making the transition to animal-free meals, and it would be a great gift to give to someone in that position. Also it is very US centric, some of the brands I had never heard of here in Canada, so bear that in mind too. Unlike the first "Skinny Bitch" it isn't completely loaded with profanity, so you could easily give this one to your (open-minded) grandma.

It is a cute book, small and square (fit in your big purse for trips to the store) with a ring binder spice (nice!) to hold the book open, its laid out by items being "swapped" and gives the best use for the items - for example best vegan cheese for melting, best for Mac'n'Cheese, best for dips and spreads etc.

There are a few recipes (10) and my only real regret is that there aren't more, including some giving uses for some of the items mentioned on the pages. The recipes I made, in page number order, were -

Page 36 - Blueberry and Lemon Cream Parfait

Nice, creamy, yet light and refreshing. Easy to make - minutes only.

Page 40 - Deb's Chili

I've never used those taco seasoning packages before. I don't know why. This was a bit of an experiment for me. It was a nice chili, but I don't know if I'd use the packs again I prefer to add spices to taste.

Page 41 - Corn, Asparagus and Fresh Risotto

The "fresh" in the title seems a little out of place! Being risotto this was a little more work, but worth it. Bursting with sweet fresh vegetables.

Page 45 - Ratatouille

Classic. Simple and tasty. Not a huge eggplant fan but liked this fine.

Page 47 - Peanut Seitan Noodles

But without the seitan, and with rice noodles instead of pasta. I really liked this one.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

This week I am cooking from...

Two books!

The first doesn't have very many recipes -

and the second is vegetarian with some vegan recipes.

I'm looking forward to both books. I'll do 2 separate reviews for next week.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Book Review - The Sexy Vegan Cookbook

This book is environmentally friendly! Printed on 100% recycled paper with soy based ink. Nice job New World Library! Publish more vegan books, please.

There are photos, but not glossy colour ones - these are black and white, and unfortunately some are not of dishes in the book just random food items, and the author. I don't need the photos but for those of you that do, this may be a consideration. I like how it is printed in two colours, and I think the purposeful messy splashes on the pages makes you feel OK about adding your own mess to the pages, I like that and think its quite cute.

The premise of the "sexy vegan" is a little bit in your face at times, and a little cringe making. I think that going with a focus on the subtitle "Extraordinary food from an ordinary dude" would have been better (at least for me), rather than trying to be a little risque and coming across as dorky and trying too hard. Because, describing the food as "extraordinary" isn't too far off, and I'd hate for folks to be put off enjoying some tasty eats because of the focus on trying to give us "sexy". Many of the stories in the chapter headers etc gave me a giggle, but some didn't for the reason noted above. I'd have liked to have seen a little more info about the actual dishes; tastes, textures, methods, described in more detail in the recipe headers - but maybe that is because that is what my editors have conditioned me to want in a recipe header!

The chapter layout and content makes sense. Though I'd have preferred that sub recipes and sauces etc which are used in only one recipe be with that recipe instead of on a page by themselves in a section at the back - just to avoid the page turning and place loosing.

On to the recipes I made - in page number order as usual.

Page 34 - Pretend Canadian Bacon

Oh, yum. Smoky and salty, and a hint of sweetness from the maple. I could have eaten the lot in one go. I shared, but it was a close thing.

Page 46 - Sexy's Scramble
(Above) A complete meal of a tofu scramble and really good. I used the optional sauce and this made everything moist and lovely. Impressive and simple.

Page 56 - The Almond Brothers Breakfast Bar

I'd have added some cinnamon or pie spice, or a touch of vanilla or almond extract. I liked how it wasn't too sweet, and how it was packed with nuts and seeds. Nice, but I would tweak.

Page 64 - Cauliflower and Roasted Fennel Soup

Reminds me of a recipe I have! Enjoyed this one as I love roasted fennel. Smooth and creamy with layers of flavor.

Page 70 - Kale and White Bean Soup

Another one I have a similar recipe for. Simple, homey and comfort food like.

Page 71 - Peanut Butternut Squash Soup

Genius. Make this soup. Make it now.

Page 86 - The Beet Down

OK. Its a salad with roasted beets. Nice but nothing super duper.

Page 92 - Southwest Slaw

Spicy and sour with a salty kick (or maybe I didn't rinse the cabbage well enough) - this was lovely.

Page 96 - Chickpea Party

Super easy to make. Would be nice as part of a salad buffet so you can just have a little. Makes loads.

Page 116 - Black Bean Burgers

Recommended. I loved these. Made them without the bun and enjoyed immensely. Only note would be that if you make only 4 burgers they will be HUGE. I made 6 and they were plenty big enough. Photo with the slaw above.

Page 152 - Shepherd's Pie

The "meat" part was a bit grey but otherwise this was really tasty, really filling, and super comfort food.

Page 194 - The Crazy Shit and Vinegar

Nice idea. I have loads in my fridge so can see it being added to everything! like...

Page 197 - Kajillion Island Dressing

Simple, tasty. Good on the Burgers (above).

Page 200 - The Tomato Killer

Easy sauce, and tasty too. Would be more awesome in summer when the tomatoes are local and super fresh.

Page 202 - Fauxlognese Sauce

Another genius. This time for the method of making the tofu crumbles - hands off and easy but so yummy.

Page 204 - Peanut Sauce

Nice. Little mild, and a bit too creamy for my preference.

Page 222 - Nilla

Icecream that is. The only recipe I tried that I didn't really like. My kids didn't like it much either. It tasted a little too tofu-y and once frozen wasn't quite sweet enough.

Overall the recipes in this book are awesome. Overlook the whole "sexy"ness of it and you're onto a winner.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

This week I'm cooking from -

So watch early next week for the review...